Science Magazine recently spoke with Patrick Grzanka, assistant professor of psychology, regarding a story about a controversial study that suggests that the objects and people children play with as early as toddlerhood may provide clues to their eventual sexual orientation.
Grzanka disputed the study’s methods and significance noting that parents’ own beliefs and biases about gender almost certainly influence how they described their children’s gendered play, which could skew their reporting.
Grzanka, who studies sexuality and multicultural issues, said more worrisome to him are the cultural assumptions underlying the study itself.
The authors appear to regard gender nonconformity as the primary marker of sexual orientation, which reflects longstanding cultural stereotypes. Rather than considering the wide range of gendered behavior exhibited by both heterosexuals and sexual minorities, the study focuses on how parents perceive children’s gendered play—and yet the study’s conclusions are all about the children, he says.